An industry lost at sea. An industry lost at see.

 The current camera crush is for the Canon 1Dmk2N.  I love the way it handles, love the finder with the newly added split screen, love it in conjunction with the 85mm Zeiss 1.4.  Everything seems so beautiful.
When you shoot any of the 85's at 5.6 you're in for a sharpness treat that's unbeatable.  Nikon, Canon, Zeiss......at f5.6 it doesn't matter.

In the past the industry of photography seemed like a well trimmed fleet of battle cruisers brimming with the hot weapons of the day and moving forward with a certain amount of cohesion and fortitude.  Now the industry (from a photographer's perspective) looks like a bunch of inflatable boats and Sunfish sailboats and air mattresses, along with some rusting tugboats and a few party barges, bunched together precariously on the swells.  Moby Dick lurking just under the froth.  Menacing.  Sharks circling.

The chatter on the APA (Advertising Photographers of America) forum today is all about the article that ran in the Washington Post on Saturday talking about David Hobby's role in hastening the decimation of the commercial markets for photography by teaching the unwashed the carefully guarded (eye roll insertion) secrets of the brotherhood of high day rates.  There is much tearing of holy cloth and gnashing of angst riddled teeth.

I think David Hobby is a convenient target but the reality is that there were never secrets that couldn't be found in books over the last 50 years.  It's just that most people are too busy/dumb/lazy to read  and they finally found a group of savants that were patient enough (or financially desperate enough) to stand up and teach them, step by baby step, to use their cameras and lights.  And the little screens on the back of the cameras took away the fear of not knowing while the "free" files took away the economic sting of a learning curve.  Nearly every cogent topic covered by Hobby on his Strobist Blog,  was in Bob Krist's 1996 book: Secrets of Location Lighting.  Really.  It was right there for everyone to exploit.

I bought a copy and devoured it.  And then there was Jon Falk's book, Adventures in Location Lighting,  1992.  This was an incredible book.  The book covered triggers, external batteries, DIY modifiers, reflectors, working in mixed light.  Sound familiar?  That was nearly 20 years ago.....

My first book is just an updated riff on Falk and Krist's classics.  We added CLS or TTL flash control and dialed it into the digital market but the salient points came from way back when.  Off camera flash cords that maintained auto control of flash?  Pretty standard on the Vivitar 283 from the early 1970's.

No, David is a convenient target but the reality is that the smart amateurs of the days past and present knew that the market for paid photography was a tough one and counted themselves lucky to have "real" jobs.

Three things are really responsible for destroying the markets (and don't believe for a second that all the APA photographers are worthless hacks who "just need to up their games"):  1.  Accountants took budgeting decisions out of the hands of creative experts and started to treat all imaging as a commodity.  Hence the pushdown for the cheapest images possible at all times. 2.  In case no one noticed the economy has been free falling since late 2006.....and photography is hardly a life or death substance that bubbles up, by necessity,  to the top of every budget.  And, 3.  Now, with enough hand holding and step by step instruction all the people who were too dumb to master traditional photography could fling themselves into the flattening market with abandon.  And since they lacked, for the most part, any good education in business or accounting or aesthetics or art or history they had no idea that they were producing visual crap. Or that they aren't even covering their cost of doing business.  The cream might rise to the top but which buyer has time to sort thru hundreds of barrels of crap to find the magic cream?  And once they find the cream will the accountants let them buy it?  Not when there's a plentiful supply of "good enough" stock at hand.

Will it change?   Does the universe care?  No.

Eventually markets will recover and most people will realize that they've been subsidizing their clients and they will relent and go back to real jobs.  People don't really want freedom because, to quote Janis Joplin, "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose..."  And no one wants to be a loser....

We (old haggard photographers) will  stay in the profession as long as we can because we're addicted to the identity of being a photographer and the wonder of making art.  But it will all change.  And just like American students' math test scores;  not for the better.

So the APA members on the forum were talking about the final demise of the industry.  Our big battleship studios are long gone.  Our decided tactical advantage of "weaponry" has been degraded.  All we and they have left to offer is our vision and professionalism.  Now we have to find the clients who actually want vision and professionalism.  I suspect they are as rare as great white whales.  Or the budgets with which to hunt great white whales.....

Please note when you read this that I'm only discussing the markets for paid, professional photography.  I'm not trying to run down hobbyists who use David's techniques for their art and enjoyment.  I'm not saying learning is bad or that techniques should be protected like IP.  I am saying that stupid people ruin markets.  We should do a much better job educating our populace.  They might then value their time and expertise (however garnered) and not want to give it away for less than free.  That would help everyone.

Land ho.



Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

We lost a follower. I just noticed. So much for goodness and light. Back to our main program.....

Anonymous said...

Win some, lose some.

Cedric said...

Your industry is not the only one that is going through this kind of change. Many industries and skill-sets have gone the way of the dodo since the industrial age started and now with the technical age it's all happening much faster. I work in the IT industry and I can tell you that the same thing is happening with us. Hard to believe? Well I can assure you it is the case. When people create software that they give away for nothing there is not much call for gifted software programmers who work by the hour. Why buy a suite of software when you can download an app for free? Sure you don't get all the functionality or security you really need and the ongoing support is sketchy at best but what the heck, it cost nothing right? It's weird and makes no sense since you always get what you pay for but everyone seems to be turning a blind eye to the reality of what is happening.

Take journalism as another example. How long before the News media get rid of their reporters and just use YouTube videos and twitter to report the news. Already, in-depth analysis of news can be seen as a casualty of this new mentality.

I don't know where it will end up but I would suggest that the world will be a drastically different place in another decade or two. For better or for worse? Well to our generation we'll probably see it as worse but who knows how the new generations will view it?

Oh and by the way Janis Joplin never associated freedom with being a loser. Far from it. Having nothing to lose is not even remotely the same as being a loser. But that's a whole other discussion.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Cedric, Agree about my tongue in cheek quote from Janis Joplin. But don't get too Zen on me all at once..... And, should you want to have that discussion about having nothing to lose (I WAS reading the Tao C'hing this morning over coffee....) and can relate it in a meaningful way to photography, I'd be happy to post it as a guest blog. Something I do rarely.

Nikhil Ramkarran said...

I am sympathetic to the plight of professionals. But this isn't the first time that photography as a profession has gone through an upheaval. Nor is it the first time that professional photographers have bemoaned the death of photography at the hands of amateurs.

I am an amateur and I know that I can't produce the consistent quality that a professional can (nor the depth of experience). I know I can't do what Wilkey did with this shoot: http://www.upaa.org/blog/jimmer/ and you will never find any but the most dedicated amateur who can duplicate something like this.

There may be many amateurs who don't understand their limitations, and many customers who don't know the difference. But I suspect that there are many on the other side of both those fences.

In the end, I am pretty sure (apply how many ever pinches of salt you want to this) that the death of professional photography is somewhat exaggerated (hysterically sometimes).

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Nikhil, I totally agree. And you'll find most of the hysteria comes from people in my age bracket who are used to the old paradigms and not quite quick about changing. But this is the first time in history that it basically costs nothing to shoot and disseminate images for money and that is a unique and first time shift. Never before was creation free. That's the game changer. Who wouldn't take a chance when you have nothing to lose?

David Hobby said...

Kirk, I think you got it right a lot better than Slate did. Kinda extra weird seeing it picked up verbatim (along with a requested "handout" photo) by my local Washington Post.

Even a few years ago, they would not have let Slate do their reporting in their own backyard -- much less used a subject-spuupled handout photo for a half-page biz section feature.

Kinda disconcerting, no?

-David H

David Hobby said...

Oops. "Supplied".

Someone musta laid off the copy editor, too.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Thanks David. I appreciate the comment. I think you've been a lightning rod among pro photographers for quite some time and usually very unfairly. The Post's request is the big part of the problem...... It's mostly client driven.

Anonymous said...

A cogent topic and goes some way to addressing some of the curveballs I threw at Kirk in the last 2-3 topics. I was hoping for a topic like this before the end of the week so getting it today is a nice surprise.

Too much of the wrong sort of management power and low wage economy has sucked the life out of developed economies around the world. But demanding recognition for value and educating the market can turn that around.

Back in the day mainframe guys feared change but many of those same departments now run a networked PC architecture. No animals were harmed during the process. The sun didn't stop shining. The grass is still green.

All the game arcades shut down when PC gaming took off but more people than ever play games. More people are educated since the printed press was invented. Movies are going like gangbusters employing actors. So what's the panic?

As an established photographer Kirk is taking a leadership position and his accessibility is helping create an army of people in a similar mould. Expectations change. The word spreads. We get to where we're going.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Just a point: There are still many, many mainframes in use and being built. While Wang and Cray and a few others have merged or disappeared we didn't "all" switch over to network computing. And really, a network of a thousand bundled machines doing massively parallel processing might as well be a main frame. Panic? it comes when all of the money goes away. At least in your industry there was/is a gradual transition and the talent sets didn't become less useful...

Bold Photography said...

I was just talking about this post and the implications to my wife, who's convinced I can't make enough money to live on as a professional photographer, and was using a political campaign in Ireland as an example.... (the one where opposing candidates used the same stock photo to illustrate someone on 'their side' ...) and found THIS:

http://thinkprogress.org/2011/03/03/newt-gingrich-stock-campaign/ just a few months ago...

And another campaign used the same stock photo for 'illegal immigrants' on both sides of a political debate: http://thinkprogress.org/2010/10/06/vitter-angle-immigration/

And these guys: http://www.ricksrss.com/?p=3821 are *promoting* the mining of Flickr for political images...

That can, will, and does come back to bite...

Dave Jenkins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave Jenkins said...

I got Jon Falk's "Adventures in Location Lighting" back in the early '90s, along with a bunch of his Underdog batteries. I like your book a lot, Kirk, and of course the information about tools is more up-to-date, but with all due respect, there simply has never been a more comprehensive lighting book for still photography than Jon's. I don't think I would take $200 for my copy. (But you can try me, if you like!)

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...


Jan Klier said...

Good post.

But I think you look at it too much from the supply point of view. It would be interesting to look at it from the demand perspective: Do we expect less visual content to be consumed? What attributes do we expect future visual content to have, and what skills will it take to create it?

Remember the promise of the computer brining about the paperless office. I think we can all agree that we're printing more than ever before. No need to stress out if you're a printer sales guy or a paper mill.

Given the information society that we are today, visual content is more important than ever to catch our attention. Just compare a movie from the 40s and 50s to today's movie and the difference in pace. It takes a lot more action and drama to keep today's audience engaged and sitting in the theater.

It's safe to say that there are more images (and videos) out there than ever before. And yes, the vast majority are cell phone snaps on FB. But the commercial users have to compete for your attention in this see of images. The image of the future may still require professional skills to develop - they may be different, but nevertheless professional. And as long as that is the case, there will be a market that will pay a living wage for some. It may not be the same people, and the same wage, or the same type of camera. But then we all try to make that distinction between the gear operator and the photographer, so as photographer we should be able to adapt to any visual content creation challenge based on the central elements of the craft, never mind what camera you are holding.

As Seth pointed out over the weekend - if you're trying to use the old playbook, or wait for the new playbook, you may be disappointed. But if you're willing to play along with change, there is a place for you.

yansen said...

Wow! This one is your darkest writing...
Sometimes I feel relieved since I'm not a pro anymore. I own a shop now, but still keep photography as my passion

Ron said...

Hey Kirk,

Your post reminds me of an old saying:

There are three kinds of people: Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who say, "What the hell happened?"

I think the people in the last group then look for someone to get mad at. David Hobby was an easy target because he is well-known and has been very generous with simple lighting info. As you pointed out, it's not breakthrough information...just delivered in a new way.

The ease of entry and the "free-ness" of digital does make it more competitive. But it just means we need to keep upping our own game. I agree the dust will settle and the Darwinian method will prevail.

When Tiger Woods turned pro, some of the other golfers complained about how good he was - the smart ones spent more time in the fitness trailer.

- Ron

Dave Jenkins said...

Why is it called "dark" when Kirk writes about the realities of the profession of photography?

For all of you in your rose-colored glasses who think "Wow!" What an easy, fun way to make a living," let me enlighten you. Professional photography is one of the most difficult ways in the world to make a living. The only field I know of that is comparably difficult is the performing arts. And in the performing arts, where most languish with an occasional part-time gig and a few make a reasonable living, a very, very few make it big. And those few who make it big in the performing arts can make it very big indeed.

On the other hand, those few who make it big in photography don't make it all that big. The best most of us can hope for is to make a reasonable living. Skill with the tools of photography is essential, of course, but is by no means the most essential. It's just an entry level thing. The most important factors are a personal vision, and business skills. And the most important of those is business skills.

So you’re an amateur. You know you’re really good with a camera, and people love your photographs. They even tell you, “Why, you’re better than so-and-so professional photographer!”

There was a time when skill with the tools of photography was enough to launch a professional career. But no more. Digital makes it all too easy to acquire the skills, so even a very high order of skill with the tools and techniques won't make it. With a very, very strong personal vision, you might make it. But without business skills, and especially the ability to sell (there’s that ugly word you had hoped to avoid) you won't last.

Business skills! Yecccch! Why does Kirk insist on writing about this dark stuff?

No problem. Just skip these posts. He’ll write something more rosy in a day or two. And you weren’t going to make it as a professional photographer anyway.

But for any of you who are serious about making it in this difficult but deeply satisfying profession, buy Kirk’s book on the business of photography. Go back into his archives and research his articles on business. Print them out and put them in a binder. I print out his business posts and keep them in a binder even though I’ve been a full-time professional for 33 years. And I still learn from them.

Those who would like to pursue this a little further might be interested in reading my article titled “The Economics of Survival,” which was published in Rangefinder Magazine in 2008. Here’s a link: http://tinyurl.com/ollews

Frank Grygier said...

In any business endeavor if all things are equal or less than or greater than equal it is the one who out hustles the competition that wins. Kirk, You should forget photography as a business and teach how to succeed as a self employed professional. If you think Dave can fill a room with flash junkies like me think about the price people will pay for the business insights you have and can convey. Don't reserve this treasure for photographers only.

Jan Klier said...

I thought this was appropriate to this discussion (just saw this on another forum): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVHd68TTcCA

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

That's absolutely right Jan. Good link. Thanks for making my morning.

Anonymous said...

Kirk, you're right about mainframes still being around and gradual transition but it was an illustrative example. Switchgear is an industry that lost out to the transistor. British coal lost out to natural gas very heavily and very rapidly. Some regions still haven't recovered.

As a kid PC's were the next big thing and something I hitched my wagon to. I was a fresh entrant who benefited. Today I've picked up a camera in later life so I'd be part of the new wave eroding your foundations. The difference to some kid or random office guy is I know the score.

The comment that there are three kinds of people is worth raising. The Tao has a similar comment in that there are people who will do things, people who will oppose things, and people who will leap on the dominant bandwagon. I've found this division of thirds to be fairly accurate in the same way opposing political camps seem to split 50:50.

Jan makes the most interesting comment and is right where I'd prefer to put my head. I dismiss DJ's cheerleading and comfort zones out of hand for reasons that would get my post deleted. The world hasn't changed but perceptions have changed. Photography is no longer seen as strategic because it's been commoditised.

How do you act in the face of this? Well, the old knowledge, skills, and markets are still there. Novelty got photography going the first time around. Celebrity got it going the second time around. Money is just another word for leverage so I'd say leverage will get it going this tome around. The unique, distinctive, and fresh image is leverage. That's the product. Art of the Deal by Donald Trump expends some hot air on precisely that.

Patrick Snook said...


I've mulled this post over quite a bit since I read it yesterday, and I keep thinking that I'm awfully lucky to have stumbled on the Strobist blog, and then, thanks to David Hobby's plugging of your book, your blog, I'm delighted to say.

I have absolutely no guilty conscience about learning something new. I worked as a photographer for ten or so years (and before that as an amateur for twenty or more), before I challenged myself to figure out how to use flash off camera. I had shied away from practicing the necessary skills, complaining about the tools when I saw my lack-lustre workmanship with flash photography.

Then about three years ago I came across the Strobist blog--and I'm still learning. I have been using off-camera lighting for more than half my commissioned work since then, and, did I mention, I'm still learning. Nothing feels better than that!

It's none of my business what any other photographer chooses to think about how I learn my craft. (To make matters worse, I do not have any formal photographic education. Horrors! My pictures must look terrible.)

My business is making the best looking pictures I can, and striving to make the photographic assignment as satisfying as possible for my clients too. Craftsmanship . . . esoteric knowledge . . . that just barely gets me out of the door. After that, the work begins. It's all and mostly about face-to-face time, and mutual interest in the production of good pictures, and good conversation and manners, and visual story-telling, and quiet observation, and many more subtle and fulfilling things besides.

I credit David Hobby and Kirk Tuck with much of my informal, educational inspiration. Good stuff! All power to your elbows.



mbka said...

I agree on much here. About the tendency towards cheaper and lower quality though I'd go farther than you, and darker. I think the lurch towards 'good enough' rather than 'good', is almost like a law of nature. I don't like it. But I can't really blame other people either for their likes.

I got the 'good enough' idea from Harry Beckwith's 'Selling the invisible'. It's about how hard it is to sell services because the buyer can’t check the quality before he buys. The service does not exist yet! And that's also true of commissioned photography - but _not_ of stock photography. With stock you see the thing before you buy it - you get safety and cheap price on top of it. Also in the book: for many purposes, mediocrity is good enough. It's by far the largest market, by definition the average person is, well, average. In their tastes too.

And finally, there is another effect. Products and services often start out to the mass market with better than needed quality. In the true pioneer phase they may be expensive, even start their lifetime as luxury products. But once products start to popularize with more aggressive pricing, in economic terms they often come with a large consumer surplus - they offer more than you actually asked for for the price. This is needed to convince first adopters of a new technology. As time goes on and the product popularizes, two things happen: prices drop (economies of scale) and the collective of suppliers 'optimizes' its products to reduce the consumer surplus - to offer the exact minimum tolerable by the market. This is not a gratuitous process, it is forced by competition and price pressures from customers.

Take my own line of work, academia. Adjuncts multiply at the expense of tenured positions. Don't ask me how I know. Class sizes increase. Online learning grows. On average, this must be bad for quality. But it's still good enough. Not everyone needs Harvard, or can pay for it. Take recorded music. Vinyl records as first mass produced music. Then CDs – no better as many complained, and me too. Now MP3s, which I abhor, listened to through tiny earbuds… almost free though. Sometimes quality does get better with time, say, take HDTV but frankly this might have just been necessary to convert the first batch of buyers to the new format.

Finally, take photographic technique. Large format 8x10 or larger. Then 4x5. Then 35 mm. Now digital, highly capable technologically in-principle but sold mostly at 2, 3 MP sizes at iStock. What happens with photography is the end of a long asymptotic convergence towards almost zero quality at almost zero price. Just good enough. Everything converges towards the minimum acceptable quality standard, with zero marginal consumer surplus. There are people who care about better quality but economies of scale make the mass product much cheaper than the slightly better product. Since few people even want 2x quality from rock bottom, it ends up 10x price and almost no one will pay that.

The only way to increase the price and quality level in such a market is through higher per-item fixed costs. That raises the comparative advantage of the overall pricier product. There is an economic theorem about that called the Alchian-Allen theorem (also called the good apples out theorem: it predicts that you should consume the cheap apples at home and export the good apples because the per-item shipping cost hurts the cheap apple proportionally more. Conversely a higher flat rate added fixed cost to all products actually helps the quality product compete against the cheap product).

From here we'd expect that the only areas where photography can stay expensive is in areas with high per-item fixed overhead cost. Could be studio space cost, or modeling costs, or areas where props are expensive. Or video, which demands much more stuff to look good. But it is going to be very tough to compete with genuinely cheap and no 'good' - but sadly, 'good enough' - competition.

Anonymous said...

My personal focus is the games industry and that's the model I work with. So I'm used to the idea of big studios crushing you with insane budgets and (people are going to hate me for this) was the first to say that games had to be packaged and sold at the dollar price point.

The psychological problem is being torn between the two extremes. How do you take on a market controlled by the big boys or earn a living in a commotised market? You do what the new indy musicians are doing which is ignore it. Right now they're creating demand in a new market.

These new entrants are making product that's as polished as the big boys and are monitising the old tape to tape syndrome by leveraging pirate music as marketing. Their branded market presence gives consumers something to hang on to and their prices are low enough it removes friction.

The reason why I suggested Kirk bring on a biz and marketing partner is that's where his weak spot is. He's a lone wolf and lacks the people skills to sell. By taking on board staff who would otherwise go it alone or fail in the market he would develop an ongoing business.

A branded studio like this would bring the level of polish and access to markets a new photographer wouldn't have. The costs of doing business would be shared and the vitality of the independent would be preserved. The real selling point is it has success baked in from the get go.

Dave Jenkins said...

I gather I'm somewhere beneath your regard, Anonymous, but it's nice to know you have everything all figured out. Check back with Kirk and me when you've made your living with a camera for 20 or 30 years.

If you know so darn much, why is it that you don't have enough courage to put your name on your posts?

Frank Grygier said...

Anonymous suggests a business model that has basically worked for a lot of "one man bands" who want to grow. Clone yourself and find the work for them. This is a matter of choice for the business owner.To suggest that anyone who has succeeded on as many levels as Kirk has a marketing week spot flies in the face of any kind of logic.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Hmmmm. Weak marketer? Never been called that before. I think the anonymous poster confuses the issues. I want to be a photographer, not a people manager.

I have "gone it alone" for a good 20 years and I seem to be doing okay. I think the poster must believe that what I write about the industry is directly autobiographical. It is not.

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised some people don't get the subtleties and fight their established corner they've done historically well on. People with the strongest opinions and vested interest will often vociferously disagree. It's also why new opportunities and change are often so hard to recognise. That's okay. More for me.

Bold Photography said...

On a tech note (regarding the crush)... have you tried the 1DMIV yet?

Dave Jenkins said...

Sorry about the subtleties. How about a link where we can see some of your wonderful work that people are lining up to buy?

Anonymous said...

I'm not talking to a brick wall or standing around for some conservative ass kisser to take free swipes so I quit posting. Happy now?

No loss to anyone, I'm sure. Carry on.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

So, anonymous, I should walk away from good continuing clients, book contracts, video contracts and.......become a people manager? Hire a staff? That's so last century. We did all that in the 1980's and 1990's. If it works for you go for it. I'm sure it works for someone.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Bold Puppy,

Yes. really, really like the 1dmk4. Close to my idea of the perfect work camera. I was waiting for a price drop but I think the tragedy in Japan scuttled that idea.

Anonymous said...

We are all seeing the economic problem Kirk is talking about, but the parallel concern for Kirk seems to be the creativity dimension he continually refers to. From the economic side, the old guard has books to write, workshops to give, and blogs to write. The technical side of photography is being explored and developed every which way from Sunday. The creative dimension seems a little bit more elusive to teach or to learn.

When we start talking about the Tao, we are no longer just talking about photography. A sensibility to the aesthetics of photography is moving into a deeper interest in philosophy. All the hardcore discussions of business and marketing expertise miss the point.

It is not clear to me how the assumption has been worked into our thinking that in the past we were being creative (rather than, say, professional) and that we were being paid for our creativity rather than for our competence--and it is not clear to me how now we are working with the assumption that our creativity is unappreciated. In what sense are we saying that good photographers are intrinsically creative, that we can't have high-level photography without creativity? High-level hacks passing themselves off as creative is not unknown (in any profession), and doubt about our worth nags most honest people, completely separate from whether we are in or out of economic favor.

There is almost a logic that creative people are not marketable. Just like there is almost a logic that innovative, economically successful people are going to be called creative. A lot of people think making a buck is being creative. A lot of people. It's a choice.

Maybe that's what we want to talk about. Choice. Like, I decided to make my own photography business rather than hunt with the doggy-dogs. I like money, but I don't drink with buckmeisters. That kind of thing.

Teach choice to the wannabe photographers, and watch which way they go. Nothing to do with photography, when you get down to it. More about philosophy. More about creativity?

Bill F

mbka said...

Just for the record I also find Mr. Anonymous a bit odd. His recipes don't have anything to do with Kirk's drift on this site. They also have this eerie feeling of late 20th century 'reinvent yourself' motivational speaker drivel to them. Personally, thanks but no thanks.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Bill, I get where you are going. It's an interesting path when we divorce intention and desire and just do the work. But the Tao T'Ching teaches that anyone who's mind is made up is unable to learn. And I guess what upsets some people about my writing is that, while I write in definitive sentences I reserve the right to not have made up my mind.

Nothing wrong with re-inventing yourself as long as your goal is happiness.

mbka said...

Hm my post arrived after Bill F's when I was referring to the other series of 'Anonymous' above. Bill F's questions are well taken, it's the age old tension between doing what you think is right and being successful with it. Anonymous before (12:50pm and follow ups) seemed to imply that all you have to do is to push some currently fashionable marketing buttons or to change and make your artistic one man shop into a lean mean marketing machine. Not his words but his drift.

Marketing what you have is often a problem but Kirk you don't seem to have an obvious problem here. The problem is shifting markets. Marketing and then producing what the market wants, or the try-and-error of new business models, is something entirely different. Here you're in constant danger of being pushed into being what you are not, what you do not want to be. Pushed by people who have it all figured out, risk free, because they're not the ones who have to do it, all they have to do is to 'motivate' and 'advise'. That is the kind of 'reinvention' I was talking against.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

mbka, until they walk in my market, in my shoes they are all employees to me. Funny, while this discussion was taking place I was busy writing about the very subject in the next blog post.

Business is always the same. Create desire. Sell the vision. Capture the credit card info. All the Seth-isms in the world won't change that. He does expensive advertisings for his seminars and speeches. They're called, "his books." He speaks about them a souvenirs of his talks. But in the end the talks are about creating a desire for the promise of knowledge that people believe he has and wish to gain. He creates the desire with his advertising and sells it just as surely as shirts, pants and Big Macs and the same banking software clicks.

The shirts and pants last longer and everyone needs them. The parabola of new social engineering last precisely as long as it takes for the newer "genius" to emerge.

Next big quote from the next marketing icon? "Buy low. Sell high."

Hannalee said...

I was totally fascinated by this post and the comments (read every single one). It has been only 3 years since I have turned professional (in fact it has been only 4 years since I took up photography) and I therefore missed the traumatic switch from film to digital. But earning a living is tough no doubt and like many others I wonder how long I will be able to sustain myself. What I do realize, and what is confirmed by Kirk and others here, is that photography is not just photography anymore and being able to digest and adapt to what society is dictating is the real craft. (Kirk, I am replacing the follower you lost) ;)

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Thanks Hannalee. It all just makes sense. Look at art directors in agencies. They used to pencil out designs and pass them along to production for the actual creation. Production used to send out for type and separations. Now the AD's do it all. They've tripled their job description. And they did it pretty smoothly. I think a lot of what we're adding are natural adjuncts to the creative process.

Clive Evans said...

Glad I'm not the only person left in the world who owns [and has read] the Krist and Falk books, bith excellent and timeless.
Gary Gladstones's book "corporate and location photogrphy" fall into the same category IMHO.

Anonymous said...

I think mbka has found a pressure point:

"Here you're in constant danger of being pushed into being what you are not, what you do not want to be. Pushed by people who have it all figured out, risk free, because they're not the ones who have to do it, all they have to do is to 'motivate' and 'advise'."

Not sure anyone wants to go there. There is lots of risk-free in photography, starting with people who already have a job and extending to retirees who can buy what they want. Managers and ad directors, and so on.

I am promoting choice, particularly choice that is not risk free. Part of what I like about Kirk. That, his wife, his kid, and his ability to find something good about Texas.

Bill F

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

I was remiss in not mentioning Gary Gladstone's incredibly good book. I have a well worn copy. When did all the unwashed masses stop reading? I thought we had a high literacy rate here. Why does this knowledge seem so precious and rare?

Dave Jenkins said...

Ditto on Gary's book. Like most photographers of my era, I never attended any kind of photo school. Everything I know I learned from reading everything I could get my hands on, then going out and trying to do what I read about. Even though I was in mid-career when Gladstone's book came out, I learned a lot from it; most especially the minimalist mindset about lighting.

Gary used to have a very active online listserv, but they changed the format and it somehow faded into internet limbo. I think Steve Burns, who posts here sometimes, was also a member of that listserv.